2019 MotoGP – Qatar Grand Prix
Friday Free Practice
With Free Practice 1 taking place during the day and Free Practice 2 running at night, the latter offered conditions most similar to Sunday’s race with 21ºC track and air temperature.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was undoubtedly the headliner of Act 1, however. The now seven-time World Champion’s new lap record – nearly half a second clear at the top – laid down an early benchmark that puts him squarely in the driving seat but it’s not one-lap pace that’s been in doubt for the Spaniard. Coming back from surgery to his shoulder, longevity and consistency is the question on everyone’s lips. And behind Marquez’ eyebrow-raiser of a 1’53.380, the riders were packed together down the timesheets.
Marc Marquez – P1
“It was a really positive day! I was focusing a lot to go directly to QP2 and yes, the lap was fast but the most important thing is our rhythm. We still need to work a little bit on this but we’re finding our way and happy with how today ended. Normally we struggle a lot at this circuit but we are there more or less. It’s free practice, Sunday is still the most important part of the weekend.”
The first of those was Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). After a more difficult season at times in 2018, consistency is also a key word for him and the Iwata marque so topping testing and showing some solid pace on Day 1 is a good start.
Maverick Vinales – P2
“It was really important to be inside the top-10 today, because the lap times were really fast. I was planning to do two time-attacks, but in the end I only had time to do one. I’m actually really happy about how the bike is working. We still have to improve, we are losing a lot on top-speed, but the bike is getting really great in the corners, so I’m very excited to work even harder tomorrow. We’re going to try to make the last corner better, especially in terms of acceleration. We need to improve in that area, let’s see if we can do it tomorrow. We now know the potential of our bike and we need to keep working hard.”
Vinales did have some close company in the form of Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) though – top Independent Team rider on Friday and fastest Ducati – as the Australian ended Friday just 0.054 off the Spaniard.
“The sensations are positive. In FP1 we have worked a lot with used tyres and we have had important indications. Also in FP2 we did a positive long run, then with the soft tyre I managed to set a good time that could be important for the direct qualification to Q2.”
Next up behind Miller was another Ducati: Mission Winnow Ducati Team newcomer Danilo Petrucci, who was the top Borgo Panigale factory team rider once again – as he was in testing.
Danilo Petrucci – P4
“Today we worked on the details to prepare the race, and I’m quite happy with the feeling with the bike. Honestly, we could have been a bit faster on the flying lap towards the end of FP2, but I ran into some traffic and I couldn’t be as precise as I would have liked. We’re still not at our 100 percent: our rivals are pretty fast, so tomorrow we’ll try to finalize the work done up to this point to make sure we start at the front and maintain a fast and consistent pace throughout the whole race.”
Teammate and 2018 Qatar winner Andrea Dovizioso was in P6 but not far off, however, and therein came the seemingly solved mystery: the switch seen on the Ducati in testing was spotted in action on Day 1 and it appeared to fit with the rumour mill theory of a holeshot device for race starts. Will we see more on Saturday?
Andrea Dovizioso – P6
“I’m very happy because we managed to put together all the feedback gathered during the tests and come back to our usual levels of competitiveness. Track conditions were quite good today, as shown by the overall fast lap times, but the situation could still change come race time. At any rate, we’re up there with our rivals and ready to put up a fight. That said, we still have room for improvement under some aspects. We need to analyze the data to optimize our strategy, especially in terms of tyre performance.”
Splitting the two Italian factory machines was another impressive performance from Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). The French rookie was the fastest newcomer to the class once again, and threatened the top just like in testing. So that seems one question answered: yes, he can do it again.
Fabio Quartararo – P5
“We have managed to maintain a good pace and in particular a fast lap time. I didn’t feel so good on the first tyre but I did have a full tank at that point. After that we tried another tyre and I actually made a few mistakes on my fast lap so it was a surprise to see that I had managed a 54.1, which means I could even have managed a high 53 or an even lower 54. I am really happy with the pace we have set tonight and the job the team has done. We need to stay calm and keep working in the same way. I have felt good so far in the two free practice sessions. In FP3 tomorrow we will have to take the heat into account and then in FP4 focus on our race pace. Then we’ll see what happens in qualifying.”
And his teammate, Franco Morbidelli, had a solid showing on Day 1 too – slotting it just behind ‘DesmoDovi’, pushed down to P7 by just 0.019 despite a crash.
Franco Morbidelli – P7
“I felt comfortable over the first few laps tonight and my race rhythm was decent. We’ll have to have a look at what everybody else’s was like but I was happy with mine. We still have plenty of room for improvement so that’s what we have to do. The important thing for tomorrow is to understand the situation and figure out the right way to go with the bike to close the gap to the fastest guys. As for the crash, I was trying to understand a new aspect of the setting that we were trying and it was my first lap, so I think I just went too hard into turn one on used tyres and ended up crashing. Maybe the tyre wasn’t quite ready for me to push so hard, so basically it was my own fault. After the crash we were able to rediscover the feeling very easily and I was able to go fast with the new setting on the second bike. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do many laps on it and we would have liked to have done more on used tyres, which was the plan. Despite that, we were able to get a few laps in so we do at least have some information to work from.”
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, another superstar in testing, was eighth quickest on Friday by another tiny gap of less than half a tenth, just ahead of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro.
Alex Rins – P8
“I expected to finish a bit higher up today. This morning in the daylight, in the sunshine, I struggled with grip and the bike was sliding a bit. I hoped in the night-time conditions I would find a better feeling with the set-up, especially as FP2 was the same time as the race will be. But I still didn’t feel very comfortable, so we need to check the data with the engineers tonight to try and improve. My lap time was not so bad, but I just don’t have enough confidence yet. The first step tomorrow is to solve the problems, and then hope for Q2.”
Aleix Espargaro – P9
“I am satisfied. Evidently, we did the right thing in the last tests when we tried a lot of things and worked in view of the race and, although we didn’t do the times, the feeling was good, so we arrived here and the bike was fast from the start. When I pushed, I did two laps under the ’55 mark. I’m also pleased with the speed. On the straights the bike is strong and now I would like to gain more in acceleration and manage the power well over race distance. We have a good base to work from for the race”.
Rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completed the top ten after shooting first in the time attack at the end of FP2, only a tenth off teammate Rins and briefly top before times tumbled.
Joan Mir – P10
“I’ve enjoyed myself a lot today, I felt a bit nervous to get back on track but it was a really positive day for us. We’ve made another step forward and I’m feeling much more comfortable and I’m happy about how I’m able to ride the bike. We have a bit of margin to improve upon, but we just want to keep working in this direction and see if I can go directly to Q2 tomorrow. It’s important to prepare for the race, too. For this first race I’d be really happy with a Top 10 finish, but it won’t be easy! There’s no pressure because it’s only the first day of the first round.”
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“We’ve started the first race weekend of the season and it’s a little bit of a mixed feeling. The positives were that both riders are in the Top 10, which was our first target, let’s say. Alex isn’t feeling fully comfortable with the bike so we need to analyse things tonight and use his feedback to see what we can improve for tomorrow. Joan had a very good start and was able to stay in the Top 10, so from this point of view it’s been a very good Friday. Alex needs to feel more comfortable with his feeling, and Joan can continue to learn and improve.”
So who’s missing in the provisional top ten of Q2 qualifiers? First is the still-recovering Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team), near the top in the morning, who just got relegated to 11th by Rins’ final fast lap at the end of FP2.
Jorge Lorenzo – P11
“I am very happy today, very confident and comfortable with the bike. We have a lot of potential and working well and I believe we can arrive there. It’s a good sign, as was the ‘morning’, we were very fast but still need to understand the bike a bit more in colder conditions. I have the feeling we can be very competitive with the right setting.”
LRC Honda pair Takaaki Nakagami and Cal Crutchlow were next on the time-sheets.
Takaaki Nakagami – P12
“I’m quite disappointed about today’s result, of course during the session (FP2) we had quite a good position and put on a medium tyre thinking about the race. On the medium tyre the lap times were quite good and we were always in the top 10. But then at the end of the session everybody put on a soft tyre and it was like a qualifying because in FP3 it will be almost impossible to make a lap time as it will be too hot. So this (FP2) was a really important session, but unfortunately the rear grip didn’t work very well for me with a soft tyre. I tried my best to make a lap time, but missed the top 10 by less than one tenth and I’m very disappointed to end in 12th position. But I’ll try to be positive for the second day and make a strong FP4 and qualifying.”
Cal Crutchlow – P13
“I’m a little disappointed with today’s result, I had a tough FP1 and, while FP2 was a lot better, it’s still disappointing to be in Q1. Tomorrow it will be very difficult to go faster in the heat, in the daylight as FP3 is at the wrong time, so it will be very difficult for us to improve to get into the top 10 for Q2 – this is why everybody pushed like mad. I used two soft tyres, the first one I was very happy with although I made a big mistake on my lap. I’m angry at myself, it’s my own fault, my own mistakes, but as my crew chief has just said to me, three months ago we didn’t think we’d be racing here so we have to take the positives. The positive for me is that I still think I can be competitive this weekend and get a good result, but I just wasn’t fast enough today through my own mistakes.”
Jack Miller’s rookie team-mate Pecco Bagnagi was in P14.
Pecco Bagnaia – P14
“I didn’t expect a first day with such fast lap-times. We improved lap by lap just thinking about doing our job. We still need something but we have made a good step forward. We can improve on the time attack but there’s no hurry. The pace is good and that is the important thing”.
And Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), the fastest man in the first session just ahead of Lorenzo, ended the day in 17th overall and was just 0.005 ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro so the two will be pushing to move forward in FP3.
Valentino Rossi – P16
“It was a strange day because, maybe we aren’t as good as this afternoon, but for sure we are not as bad as this evening. This evening, sincerely, we didn’t modify the bike very much, but I had a lot of problems with the front tyres because we got out of balance and I suffered very much. I was slow. At the end, the track had a lot grip, so a lot of the top guys improved, and the best lap time is a new record, so they were very fast, but unfortunately it was a difficult practice for me. The big problem is that I’m out of Q2 at the moment. Tomorrow in FP3 maybe the conditions will make it hard to improve my best lap time, so it will be difficult to enter directly into Q2. We have to find a way to be faster.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“We started FP1 where we finished the Qatar Test, with a good base set-up. Maverick was able to improve his setting from FP1 to FP2 and he‘s very comfortable on the bike, even though we still have some room for improvement on the exit of turn 16. Valentino, on the other hand, tried a different setting at the end of FP1 that gave him the possibility to improve, but most likely due to the different temperature of the tarmac in FP2, this didn‘t work well and it affected his time-attack. Tomorrow in FP3 the aim is to get through to Q2, even though we know it will be difficult because of the track conditions in the warm afternoon. Another important aspect is to make a definite decision on the tyre choice for the race, as we‘re currently 80% certain.”
2019 MotoGP – Qatar Grand Prix
Friday Combined Free Practice Classification
MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1’53.380
VINALES Maverick 12 SPA Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 0.474
MILLER Jack 43 AUS Alma Pramac Racing 0.528
PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Mission Winnow Ducati 0.673
QUARTARARO Fabio 20 FRA Petronas Yamaha SRT 0.774
DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Mission Winnow Ducati 0.876
MORBIDELLI Franco 21 ITA Petronas Yamaha SRT 0.895
RINS Alex 42 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 0.940
ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 0.987
MIR Joan 36 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1.022
LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1.048
NAKAGAMI Takaaki 30 JPN LCR Honda 1.064
CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 1.072
BAGNAIA Francesco 63 ITA Alma Pramac Racing 1.421
RABAT Tito 53 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 1.652
ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 1.668
ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1.673
ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 2.032
IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2.052
OLIVEIRA Miguel 88 POR Red Bull KTM Tech 3 2.255
ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Reale Avintia Racing 2.274
SYAHRIN Hafizh 55 MAL Red Bull KTM Tech 3 3.057
SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Aprilia Racing Test Team 3.454
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) led the way in an exceptionally tight Moto2 field on Day 1 of the VisitQatar Grand Prix, with just three-quarters of a second separating the top fifteen.
The Italian was second in the race last season but of the competitors still in the class, he was the highest finisher – a benchmark in itself, adding to the new lap record set on Friday. At the top he had a little breathing space, however, with an advantage of a quarter of a second over FP1’s fastest man Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP).
Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) locked out the top three, only 0.030 in further arrears as the Australian signalled the start of the infinitesimal gaps from there on out.
Fourth place went to Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) as he converted impressive race pace in testing to a solid time attack too, with Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) completing the top five.
Jorge Navarro (+Ego Speed Up) took P6 and showed more impressive speed for rider and manufacturer, ahead of a leap up the timesheets from Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team).
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was the fastest KTM and made sure the Austrian factory were represented in the top ten, 0.005 off Locatelli, with Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) taking P9.
The top ten was completed by rookie Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) as the Italian took the honour of fastest debutant on Friday. He was hundredths in front of Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40), with NTS RW Racing GP’s Bo Bendsneyder in P12 as the Dutchman continued his top form in 2019.
Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP), returning from the premier class, was 13th despite a crash near the end of the day but remains a provisional Q2 graduate.
This weekend the new qualifying format comes in and it’s the fastest 14 after FP3 who’ll go through automatically – so it’s reigning Moto3 World Champion and Moto2 rookie Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) currently on course to be the final rider to graduate.
American Racing KTM’s Iker Lecuona crashed in FP1 and was declared fit, returning to the track after a check up to rejoin the action in FP2.
Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) blitzed the Moto3 field by the end of Day 1 at the VisitQatar Grand Prix; the only rider to go below the 2:05 barrier and an impressive 0.595 clear of FP1’s fastest man, the returning Romano Fenati (Snipers Team).
It was close competition to complete the top three, however, as 2016 Qatar GP winner Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was third quickest but only 0.084 off Fenati despite a crash.
It was a record-breaking FP2 session as Canet’s time was well under the old lap record to throw down the gauntlet, and more than half a second in hand on Friday makes for good reading as the new qualifying format for the lightweight class begins this weekend. For the first time, entry to Q2 will be decided by the combined standings at the end of FP3 and the fourteen fastest earn automatic graduation.
Behind the top three it got seriously close, however, so competition will be tight. Less than four tenths separate fourth place Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) to 16th place John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing).
Behind Migno, Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), less than a week after fracturing his collarbone in testing, finished Day 1 in Qatar in an incredible fifth place. He led Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) by 0.090, with Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) just a further 0.005 in arrears.
Tony Arbolino (Snipers Team) cemented eighth on his final run with a 2:05.480, ahead of Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) and Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team) in ninth and tenth respectively. Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia), Reale Avintia Arizona 77’s Vicente Perez, Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Can Öncü and Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) are currently set to join them in Q2 – but there’s time yet for that to change in FP3.
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